Monday, September 10, 2007

The complicit bureaucrat reconsidered

I read the long article about Jack Goldsmith in the Sunday New York Times Magazine yesterday, and I came away with a slightly different impression than after viewing his interview with Bill Moyers.

In the article, written by friend, and colleague Jeffrey Rosen, it becomes clear that Goldsmith struggled with his legal conscience and the powerful and headstrong assistant to Dick Cheney, David Addington. Goldsmith made some tough calls in the face of pressure from Addington to allow unlimited power to the executive branch for interrogations, detention and surveillance. And Goldsmith resigned after nine months of service because of the pressure he faced.

However, he admits that he is a supporter of a strong executive branch in the fight against terror and that he is not a civil libertarian. He is in full support of rigorous interrogations, pushed to the limit of laws, he supports detention without due process as long as it is granted politically, and the same goes for surveillance.

The problem I still have with the man is that he resigned in a way that would divert attention from the grab for extra-constitutional powers by the executive branch. He defends the actions of John Yoo, David Addington and Alberto Gonzales, saying they are good people acting in ways they think are right. And he is all for near-torture, secret detentions, and widespread surveillance as long as the President can get Congress to approve (which, dishearteningly it has). Goldsmith admits to knowing that the "torture memo" drafted by Yoo had to be withdrawn, but waited four months until Abu Ghraib broke, because he was busy with other matters (while prisoners suffered torturous interrogation techniques at the hands of the CIA).
Finally, while he resigned in 2004, he has waited until the publication of this book, three more years into a presidency gone haywire, to speak out. This makes him an enabler as much as those who stayed and labored under this administration.

Goldsmith also portrays John Ashcroft as an unlikely hero.

Goldsmith is donating all profits from his book to charity.

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